I felt like a proud parent when, on Wednesday, November 25, I attended our annual alumni basketball
games. Over 30 students spanning the last 10 years, visited their alma mater to play basketball, cheer on their fellow alumni, eat pizza and reconnect to a community they called home for four formative years of their lives. They all graduated FJA (or JAMD) as young men and women full of potential, and returned as adults, excelling in education, married, managing a business, consulting or in medical residency.
Like Joseph in this week’s Torah portion, we may have ideas about where we would like to go in life but we don’t always know how we will get there. Joseph had dreams of grandeur but could never have imagined that he would be sold into slavery, transported to Egypt, find success only to be imprisoned, and then rise from being a prisoner to viceroy of Egypt. Nor could he have understood that he would be the catalyst for Israel’s migration to Egypt and their eventual slavery as a nation.
We often read the Bible from a broad perspective, focusing on God’s plan and how it unfolds rather than emphasizing choices individuals made. We might assume that God’s goal for Israel would have been achieved regardless of individual choice, but did it have to include Joseph as a leader? Joseph chose to irritate his brothers with his dreams, and they chose to dispose of him. Joseph’s choice landed him in an Egyptian prison and his willingness to interpret dreams brought him to the feet of Pharaoh. To be sure, God had a hand in all of this. Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams or the coincidental timing of each event appears to be orchestrated by God. Choice, however, plays a critical role in Joseph’s success.
Even a student with the most impeccable plan can never know for certain where life will take him. However, like Joseph who dreamed big and made critical choices, our students continue to make discerning choices that brought them back last Wednesday as successful women and men.
Rabbi Azaryah Cohen